Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.


At Google, they’re terribly clever.

And you know they only want to hire people who are just as clever as everyone who’s already there. But finding clever people isn’t always easy. You have to sometimes be clever about the means you use. It’s not as if you’re going to just spend your day scanning LinkedIn, is it?

Imagine, then, how Max Rosett must have felt when the brains at Google asked him to play a game with them. Oh, they didn’t call him. They didn’t (at least officially) know who he was.

Instead, as Rosett describes at the Hustle, he was polishing his coding skills on his computer. He’s an ex-management consultant who wanted to become an engineer. (We all have strange predilections.) He often used Google search to find things. He’s human, after all. So he typed: “python lambda function list comprehension.”

Please, don’t ask. Engineers like to talk in a language that they find glorious and those who wash and cuddle occasionally find a touch disturbing.

The search page came up. But as Rosett scanned it, the page began to open up, as if he’d unlocked some secret vault.

Within it appeared this question: “You're speaking our language. Up for a challenge?”

And so, oddly not fearing that this was spam that might take over his computer and grab his intimate particulars, he decided to play.

It wasn’t Sesame that had opened up. It was Mountain View.

I suppose, given that it was Google, the company already knew about his intimate particulars. They had just promised never, ever to tell anyone.

But here was the company’s actual search page coming alive with the sort of pop-up that might make some think it’s terribly clever and others that someone was coming up behind them.

Rosett was fascinated by what he discovered next. Google invited him to a private site called Foo.bar. There he was posed lots of questions about programming. Rosett played this game for two weeks, being asked to take ever more fascinating--and presumably difficult--challenges.

He obviously was good, because a recruiter contacted him. From there, it was a mere hop, skip, jump, and 74 interviews (humor; it can’t have been more than 23) before Rosett got a job at Google.

He said: “Foo.bar is a brilliant recruiting tactic. Google used it to identify me before I had even applied anywhere else, and they made me feel important while doing so. At the same time, they respected my privacy and didn't reach out to me without explicitly requesting my information.”

Well, the Googlies respected his privacy in so far as they registered when he often made searches for subjects in which they were interested. And they didn’t make that information public. It was just between Google and Rosett.

There again, who among us, faced with such a tactic, wouldn’t feel flattered? Well, if you were an engineer, at least. It’s like one of those phone calls or emails in which someone says: “You’ve been recommended to us,” without ever saying who had done the recommending.

The only difference is that this is arguably the most powerful information collection company in the world using the powerful information collection to do it. You see how clever they are?

Published on: Aug 27, 2015
The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.